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8.1. Operators

assignment

variable assignment

Initializing or changing the value of a variable

=

All-purpose assignment operator, which works for both arithmetic and string assignments.

var=27
category=minerals  # No spaces allowed after the "=".

Caution

Do not confuse the "=" assignment operator with the = test operator.

#   =  as a test operator

if [ "$string1" = "$string2" ]
then
   command
fi

#  if [ "X$string1" = "X$string2" ] is safer,
#+ to prevent an error message should one of the variables be empty.
#  (The prepended "X" characters cancel out.)

arithmetic operators

+

plus

-

minus

*

multiplication

/

division

**

exponentiation

# Bash, version 2.02, introduced the "**" exponentiation operator.

let "z=5**3"    # 5 * 5 * 5
echo "z = $z"   # z = 125
%

modulo, or mod (returns the remainder of an integer division operation)

bash$ expr 5 % 3
2
	      
5/3 = 1, with remainder 2

This operator finds use in, among other things, generating numbers within a specific range (see Example 9-11 and Example 9-15) and formatting program output (see Example 27-16 and Example A-6). It can even be used to generate prime numbers, (see Example A-15). Modulo turns up surprisingly often in numerical recipes.

Example 8-1. Greatest common divisor

#!/bin/bash
# gcd.sh: greatest common divisor
#         Uses Euclid's algorithm

#  The "greatest common divisor" (gcd) of two integers
#+ is the largest integer that will divide both, leaving no remainder.

#  Euclid's algorithm uses successive division.
#    In each pass,
#+      dividend <---  divisor
#+      divisor  <---  remainder
#+   until remainder = 0.
#    The gcd = dividend, on the final pass.
#
#  For an excellent discussion of Euclid's algorithm, see
#+ Jim Loy's site, http://www.jimloy.com/number/euclids.htm.


# ------------------------------------------------------
# Argument check
ARGS=2
E_BADARGS=85

if [ $# -ne "$ARGS" ]
then
  echo "Usage: `basename $0` first-number second-number"
  exit $E_BADARGS
fi
# ------------------------------------------------------


gcd ()
{

  dividend=$1             #  Arbitrary assignment.
  divisor=$2              #! It doesn't matter which of the two is larger.
                          #  Why not?

  remainder=1             #  If an uninitialized variable is used inside
                          #+ test brackets, an error message results.

  until [ "$remainder" -eq 0 ]
  do    #  ^^^^^^^^^^  Must be previously initialized!
    let "remainder = $dividend % $divisor"
    dividend=$divisor     # Now repeat with 2 smallest numbers.
    divisor=$remainder
  done                    # Euclid's algorithm

}                         # Last $dividend is the gcd.


gcd $1 $2

echo; echo "GCD of $1 and $2 = $dividend"; echo


# Exercises :
# ---------
# 1) Check command-line arguments to make sure they are integers,
#+   and exit the script with an appropriate error message if not.
# 2) Rewrite the gcd () function to use local variables.

exit 0
+=

plus-equal (increment variable by a constant)

let "var += 5" results in var being incremented by 5.

-=

minus-equal (decrement variable by a constant)

*=

times-equal (multiply variable by a constant)

let "var *= 4" results in var being multiplied by 4.

/=

slash-equal (divide variable by a constant)

%=

mod-equal (remainder of dividing variable by a constant)

Arithmetic operators often occur in an expr or let expression.

Example 8-2. Using Arithmetic Operations

#!/bin/bash
# Counting to 11 in 10 different ways.

n=1; echo -n "$n "

let "n = $n + 1"   # let "n = n + 1"  also works.
echo -n "$n "


: $((n = $n + 1))
#  ":" necessary because otherwise Bash attempts
#+ to interpret "$((n = $n + 1))" as a command.
echo -n "$n "

(( n = n + 1 ))
#  A simpler alternative to the method above.
#  Thanks, David Lombard, for pointing this out.
echo -n "$n "

n=$(($n + 1))
echo -n "$n "

: $[ n = $n + 1 ]
#  ":" necessary because otherwise Bash attempts
#+ to interpret "$[ n = $n + 1 ]" as a command.
#  Works even if "n" was initialized as a string.
echo -n "$n "

n=$[ $n + 1 ]
#  Works even if "n" was initialized as a string.
#* Avoid this type of construct, since it is obsolete and nonportable.
#  Thanks, Stephane Chazelas.
echo -n "$n "

# Now for C-style increment operators.
# Thanks, Frank Wang, for pointing this out.

let "n++"          # let "++n"  also works.
echo -n "$n "

(( n++ ))          # (( ++n ))  also works.
echo -n "$n "

: $(( n++ ))       # : $(( ++n )) also works.
echo -n "$n "

: $[ n++ ]         # : $[ ++n ] also works
echo -n "$n "

echo

exit 0

Note

Integer variables in older versions of Bash were signed long (32-bit) integers, in the range of -2147483648 to 2147483647. An operation that took a variable outside these limits gave an erroneous result.

echo $BASH_VERSION   # 1.14

a=2147483646
echo "a = $a"        # a = 2147483646
let "a+=1"           # Increment "a".
echo "a = $a"        # a = 2147483647
let "a+=1"           # increment "a" again, past the limit.
echo "a = $a"        # a = -2147483648
                     #      ERROR: out of range,
                     # +    and the leftmost bit, the sign bit,
                     # +    has been set, making the result negative.

As of version >= 2.05b, Bash supports 64-bit integers.

Caution

Bash does not understand floating point arithmetic. It treats numbers containing a decimal point as strings.

a=1.5

let "b = $a + 1.3"  # Error.
# t2.sh: let: b = 1.5 + 1.3: syntax error in expression
#                            (error token is ".5 + 1.3")

echo "b = $b"       # b=1

Use bc in scripts that that need floating point calculations or math library functions.

bitwise operators. The bitwise operators seldom make an appearance in shell scripts. Their chief use seems to be manipulating and testing values read from ports or sockets. "Bit flipping" is more relevant to compiled languages, such as C and C++, which provide direct access to system hardware.

bitwise operators

<<

bitwise left shift (multiplies by 2 for each shift position)

<<=

left-shift-equal

let "var <<= 2" results in var left-shifted 2 bits (multiplied by 4)

>>

bitwise right shift (divides by 2 for each shift position)

>>=

right-shift-equal (inverse of <<=)

&

bitwise AND

&=

bitwise AND-equal

|

bitwise OR

|=

bitwise OR-equal

~

bitwise NOT

^

bitwise XOR

^=

bitwise XOR-equal

logical (boolean) operators

!

NOT

if [ ! -f $FILENAME ]
then
  ...
&&

AND

if [ $condition1 ] && [ $condition2 ]
#  Same as:  if [ $condition1 -a $condition2 ]
#  Returns true if both condition1 and condition2 hold true...

if [[ $condition1 && $condition2 ]]    # Also works.
#  Note that && operator not permitted inside brackets
#+ of [ ... ] construct.

Note

&& may also be used, depending on context, in an and list to concatenate commands.

||

OR

if [ $condition1 ] || [ $condition2 ]
# Same as:  if [ $condition1 -o $condition2 ]
# Returns true if either condition1 or condition2 holds true...

if [[ $condition1 || $condition2 ]]    # Also works.
#  Note that || operator not permitted inside brackets
#+ of a [ ... ] construct.

Note

Bash tests the exit status of each statement linked with a logical operator.

Example 8-3. Compound Condition Tests Using && and ||

#!/bin/bash

a=24
b=47

if [ "$a" -eq 24 ] && [ "$b" -eq 47 ]
then
  echo "Test #1 succeeds."
else
  echo "Test #1 fails."
fi

# ERROR:   if [ "$a" -eq 24 && "$b" -eq 47 ]
#+         attempts to execute  ' [ "$a" -eq 24 '
#+         and fails to finding matching ']'.
#
#  Note:  if [[ $a -eq 24 && $b -eq 24 ]]  works.
#  The double-bracket if-test is more flexible
#+ than the single-bracket version.       
#    (The "&&" has a different meaning in line 17 than in line 6.)
#    Thanks, Stephane Chazelas, for pointing this out.


if [ "$a" -eq 98 ] || [ "$b" -eq 47 ]
then
  echo "Test #2 succeeds."
else
  echo "Test #2 fails."
fi


#  The -a and -o options provide
#+ an alternative compound condition test.
#  Thanks to Patrick Callahan for pointing this out.


if [ "$a" -eq 24 -a "$b" -eq 47 ]
then
  echo "Test #3 succeeds."
else
  echo "Test #3 fails."
fi


if [ "$a" -eq 98 -o "$b" -eq 47 ]
then
  echo "Test #4 succeeds."
else
  echo "Test #4 fails."
fi


a=rhino
b=crocodile
if [ "$a" = rhino ] && [ "$b" = crocodile ]
then
  echo "Test #5 succeeds."
else
  echo "Test #5 fails."
fi

exit 0

The && and || operators also find use in an arithmetic context.

bash$ echo $(( 1 && 2 )) $((3 && 0)) $((4 || 0)) $((0 || 0))
1 0 1 0
	      

miscellaneous operators

,

Comma operator

The comma operator chains together two or more arithmetic operations. All the operations are evaluated (with possible side effects. [1]

let "t1 = ((5 + 3, 7 - 1, 15 - 4))"
echo "t1 = $t1"           ^^^^^^  # t1 = 11
# Here t1 is set to the result of the last operation. Why?

let "t2 = ((a = 9, 15 / 3))"      # Set "a" and calculate "t2".
echo "t2 = $t2    a = $a"         # t2 = 5    a = 9

The comma operator finds use mainly in for loops. See Example 11-12.

Notes

[1]

Side effects are, of course, unintended -- and usually undesirable -- consequences.


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